Banditry: Firmly on our neck

By Malachy Uzendu

I took time last Friday to listen to the Jumat prayers in one of the most prestigious mosques in the central part of Abuja, the nation’s capital city. It is not in any doubt that I am a Christian of the Holy Catholic background. But, I believe so much in ecumenism that I do not condemn or denigrate any religious persuasion. I believe all of us worship the same God. However, the difference is doctrinal.

Before I attended the Friday worship, I have been listening to preaching by Imams. But last Friday, rumours went riot that Islamic clerics have been asked to instruct Muslims to take up arms against Christians immediately after the Friday Jumat services. Even security agencies almost lent credence to that rumour. Shortly before the Jumat prayers, security operatives were all over the places in Abuja Central District blaring sirens on a “Show of Force”. And this created apprehension in Abuja. People were expecting fire and brimstone, but it turned out not to be. The day ended without any modicum of civil disturbances.

The Imams I listened to never for a second called for the taking up of arms against anybody. Rather, they preached and prayed for peace, prosperity, unity, and progress of the citizens and against rising insecurity in the country, spiraling level of corruption and nepotism now consuming our nation, and called for repentance.

I have been an active participant in the programmes of the Inter Faith Action Association co-hosted by the emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111. Onaiyekan was the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), while Sultan Abubakar 111 is the President of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). The duo still share a lot in common. They promoted inter-faith dialogue, peace and progress of the country in a most exhilarating ecumenical manner.

When some Islamist bandits recently decided to wreak havoc on several educational institutions in Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and Sokoto states, I could not fathom the reasoning behind that level of criminality. And the actions and statements of Sheik Abubakar Gumi, do not help matters. Gumi, one of the most respected Islamic clerics called for negotiation with bandits and even described journalists, who merely chronicle their activities as criminals. He said he is in touch and in fact knows the leaders of these bandits; criminals who have consistently wreaked havoc and deal lethal blow on education, especially in the North-West and North-Central Nigeria.

But, while it appears that security agencies have decided to only trail behind these criminals, never beating them to their nefarious game, the bandits made mincemeat of our academics. And it appears the political leadership is unperturbed. Otherwise, how can these criminals nefariously invade and kidnap students at their whims and fancy just like eating ‘fofo’ with ‘okro’ soup? These bandits appear to have dazed and pushed our security agencies to the bench, kidnapping students and escaping into the bushes with such an ease even in schools that are very close with a military facility. This is shameful and a denigration of the integrity of our security forces. And our brand-new Service Chiefs appear helpless, applying same old unsuccessful tactics?

If these criminals succeed in their Boko Haram (Western Education is Evil) activities, why must we continue to give them baptismal names; calling them bandits, instead of terrorists, or better still Boko Haram members? I watched with tears rolling down my cheek, video clip making the round since Saturday of how the so-called bandits (Boko Haram operatives) are harassing the kidnapped students of the Federal School of Forestry Technology, Afaka in Kaduna State. It is important to state that Afaka also hosts a training facility of the Department of State Security (DSS), and that Kaduna Airport, was desecrated recently by bandits, is on the same axis. Yet, these ‘bandits’ could easily swoop on our educational institutions or wherever for that matter and take away our country people, especially the womenfolk, who no doubt, they violate.

And I ask the question: where is the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (SANU), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), etc? Some people queried why I refer to these unions. The NLC and its affiliates are supposed to fight for and protect the interests of the nation’s workforce. When bandits invade educational institutions as have become their pastime, they violate workers’ source of livelihood and welfare. Workers are intimidated, and taken away as captives, yet, these unions have kept mum. Do they really understand the basic duty to their members? As for NANS, why do they poke their nose on issues that appear not to be their primarily concern and shy from confronting issues underneath their pants, especially these ceaseless kidnappings in our educational institutions? Or is NANS only interested in just collecting union dues from students without bothering about the welfare and interest of their colleagues? Where then is ‘Aluta’ fraternity?

It is obvious that criminals have carried on with this brigandage up to our neck. Should we continue to thread the same path, as if it is just one of those issues? Shouldn’t we analyse the issues that brought us to the nefarious point we are at the moment? Let us interrogate our polity. Banditry has all the trappings of political brigandage and our political leaders know this is the beginning and end of our problems. Who are the people they usually bring together as thugs during election? Where do they get their arms from and do they surrender the arms after the electoral exploits? Finding answers to these would certainly bring a soothing balm against these acts of brigandage. We cannot divorce electoral violence with the current goings on in the country. They are the aftermath of the unbridled act of our political leaders.

These are issues which the NLC, its affiliates and NANS should show more than passing interest on. If we fail to do so immediately, the hands that are on our neck will continue to reduce the size of our neck, and eventually snuff out life from us. In the end, our academic standard, the future of our country, will continue to be worse for it.

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